Buddhist Funerals: 10 Important Things You Must Know

Buddhist funerals are modest, specific rituals. Attending a Theravada (or Thai) Buddhist, a Mahayana (or Vajrayana) Buddhist, or a Vajrayana Buddhist’s burial is considered a solemn occasion. This funeral may have the same atmosphere as all the others you’ve been to.

Regardless, you might feel uneasy going to a Buddhist ceremony if you still determine what to expect.

To learn more about Buddhist funeral rituals and practices:

  1. Keep reading.
  2. Find out what to wear to a Buddhist funeral and what to anticipate from the way.
  3. Learn the appropriate method to offer the family of the deceased your sympathies.

COVID-19 tip: You may still incorporate many of these customs, including chants, prayers, and traditional music, into your virtual Buddhist funeral using a site like Gathering Us. For assistance in determining the logistics or any restrictions, brainstorm with your funeral director, event coordinator, or religious leader.

What Happens at a Buddhist Funeral?

Buddhists are not generally opposed to using some of the regional burial rituals and customs. Some Buddhists might even adopt the local way of life and incorporate it into their religious beliefs.

In contrast, a Buddhist’s burial customs may change according to the deceased’s ancestry and culture.

Based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha, Buddhism was first practised in ancient India. Buddhism has been widely practised in Central, East, and Southeast Asia since its inception. Buddhism changed as it developed due to many movements and schools of thought. Three main Buddhist traditions are still practised today.

All Buddhists share a common core of beliefs, regardless of the tradition, nationality, or culture that each one of them practices. Buddhists believe investing time and money in elaborate rituals and ceremonies to commemorate death is unnecessary because it is a natural part of life. Many Buddhists believe that charitable organisations or good causes would benefit more from the funds used for such services.

Buddhists consider death to be a part of the Samsara cycle. Buddhists think that people reincarnate or are born again after they pass away. Buddhists don’t believe in salvation; hence honouring the deceased is the primary goal of a funeral. The rituals help the departed pass smoothly into their next existence.

You can infer that most Buddhist funerals are straightforward, modest affairs based on these ideas.

1. Location

Buddhist burials might occur in a family home, a monastery, or a funeral parlour. The funeral service will often happen on the third, seventh, fifty-ninth, or the hundredth day following the passing.

Buddhists hold that since it requires time for a soul to transfer after death, there should be a waiting period before cremation or burial. The Buddhist tradition determines the duration. For instance, Zen and Pure Land Buddhists think the transformation can take up to 100 days.

2. Attendance

The deceased’s family members may decide to restrict attendance to some or all of the ceremony. While some families want to keep the funeral of their loved one private, other families could choose to extend an invitation to the larger community.

The wake and the funeral are often public events, and the services may occur before the burial or cremation or follow the cremation.

Only family members may attend the cremation ceremony. Buddhists are not required to be cremated, but since the Buddha was himself cremated, it is typically the norm.

3. Traditions

As already said, many Buddhists follow some local burial customs. As a result, you could think the Buddhist ceremony you attend is like every other funeral you’ve ever been to.

Some Buddhist households might decide to have a wake. Expect the body to be exhibited in a straightforward, open coffin if there is a wake. The deceased will be wearing casual attire.

There can be an altar set up close to the coffin. There may be a picture of the deceased on the platform, along with candles, flowers, fruit, and incense. There might even be a Buddha statue nearby.

Monks may carry out Buddhist rites and preach at the burial service. The ceremony may include chanting by monks or by attendees.

As a Buddhist wake, military or fraternal rites may be conducted.

4. Chants & Prayers

For Buddhists, chanting and prayer are essential aspects of the death process. Family members or monks frequently sing partitas or protect phrases as a person dies. When a person passes away, the chanting carries on to aid the soul’s exit from the body.

The wake may include chanting as well. The chanting might be pre-recorded, done by monks, or done by laypeople.

Last but not least, chanting is heard during the cremation or burial of the deceased.

5. Duration

Buddhist funerals are not required to last a set amount of time according to any established protocols. However, the majority of services endure about an hour.

The length of the wake is up to the family.

What Conduct Is Appropriate During a Buddhist Funeral?

Buddhist funerals are solemn occasions, as are most funerals. Attendees should behave quietly and with respect. You might need guidance on how you should participate in the event. Here are some broad tips to make the funeral more bearable for you.

Go to the casket or altar when you get to the wake or funeral. When you get there, stop and take time to think. There may be a tiny bend in this reflection. You can also choose to make a prayer stance by folding your hands in front of you.

Find a seat and wait quietly for the service to start after paying your respects at the casket or altar.

The majority of the time, Buddhist monks officiate at funerals. You might hear sermons, eulogies, and chanting during the service. You can participate in chanting with the monks or the laypeople, or you can sit quietly.

During the ceremony, follow the lead of the Buddhist monks. As you’ll notice, no one in the chamber should be seated higher than the monks conducting the service.

You shouldn’t bring attention to yourself at a Buddhist burial. Always sit quietly and avoid recording the service on your phone or any other device.

Family members and mourners may carry the casket to a hearse after the funeral. Pay attention to directions on where to bury the coffin. You might be asked to drive to the burial site in your car and follow the hearse.

The deceased person’s family may travel with them to the cremation site. This portion of the service is typically reserved only for close relatives.

6. Clothing

Suitable burial clothes vary greatly because a diverse spectrum of countries and ethnic groups practises Buddhism. One Buddhist funeral, for instance, can have the family members dressed in white while the other mourners are dressed in black. Japanese Buddhists’ families are permitted to wear black, but other mourners are permitted to wear white. If you need clarification on the right colour for the situation, go with muted hues.

Your attire must not flaunt ostentation or riches, regardless of hue. Thanks to your straightforward, understated clothing, you should also be able to sit on a cushion or kneel during the ceremony.

7. Mood

Buddhist funerals are calm and solemn affairs, and it’s a perfect moment to reflect on the deceased’s happy life.

Since Buddhists believe that the deceased is reborn into new beings, there will be no mention of departing to a “better place.”

8. Gifts

Sending plants or flowers for display at the funeral service is an option, and you should also bring the flowers to the funeral so you can give them to the family. The customary choice of flowers at a Buddhist funeral is white, and verifies that the flowers being delivered are not red.

At a Buddhist funeral, cards and charitable contributions are also appropriate.

What Takes Place Following a Buddhist Funeral?

Cremation is common among Buddhists. However, it is not compulsory, and some people think cremation is necessary for separating the soul from the body.

9. Embalming & Cremation

Monks or family members could witness the cremation procedure. The body is burnt along with a few mementos that belonged to the deceased while chanting.

The bones are often placed into an urn after the cremation, and the pot is subsequently buried.

The body will be buried in a plot if the relative opts not to cremate the deceased. As the coffin is lowered into the cemetery, chanting may be led by monks or family members in the vicinity of the burial.

10. Mourning & Paying Tribute to The Departed

During grief, Buddhists customarily continue to pray and chant for the deceased. This time frame can last from a month to 100 days.

Buddhist funeral customs are difficult to generalise because Buddhists come from a diverse range of nations and races, but generally speaking; the funerals are solemn, modest events. These fundamental tips should assist you in understanding how to prepare for the funeral and what to expect during it.

At ICareFuneral, we hope to provide the best and most memorable for your late loved one. Our experienced workers will handle any requests you might bring up and do a smooth job for the beloved. You can find out more about our ICareFuneral Buddhist Funeral Services here.  Contact us for any assistance.

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